Saturday, May 20, 2023

More Saturday Male Beauty


The Warped "Freedom" of Today's Republicans?

The mindset of far right Christians - the grossly misnamed "Christian Right" - that anything that restricts their ability to harm and persecute others is a denial of their "freedom" and tantamount to persecution has now spread to the entire Republican Party.  Perversely, the GOP calls itself the "party of freedom" but that freedom only extends to white "Christian" religious extremists, white supremacists and vulture capitalists.  As for everyone else, this perverted "freedom" equates to being intimidated, denigrated, abused and marginalized at will by the ugliest elements of the GOP base.  Undermining child labor, anti-gay extremism, censoring books that often are found offensive by a single far right nutcase, and using guns to intimidate are all perfectly fine in this upside down world of GOP "freedom."  A column in the New York Times looks at this dystopian world and summarizes the GOP's freedoms as follows: 

There are, I think, four freedoms we can glean from the Republican program.

There is the freedom to control — to restrict the bodily autonomy of women and repress the existence of anyone who does not conform to traditional gender roles.

There is the freedom to exploit — to allow the owners of business and capital to weaken labor and take advantage of workers as they see fit.

There is the freedom to censor — to suppress ideas that challenge and threaten the ideologies of the ruling class.

And there is the freedom to menace — to carry weapons wherever you please, to brandish them in public, to turn the right of self-defense into a right to threaten other people.

I would perhaps add a fifth freedom that relates to censorship  - the right to proudly embrace ignorance and demand that the rest of society be equally ignorant.  The column goes on to set this distillation of GOP "freedoms" in the context of the laws being passed around the country by GOP controlled state legislatures despite majority opinion opposing them - something Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia GOP wants to bring to Virginia.  Here are excerpts: 

On Tuesday, Republicans in North Carolina overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto to pass a strict limit on bodily autonomy in the form of a 12-week abortion ban.

In addition to this new limit on abortion, the law extends the waiting period for people seeking abortions to 72 hours and puts onerous new rules on clinics. As intended, the net effect is to limit access to abortion and other reproductive health services to everyone but those with the time and resources to seek care outside the state.

North Carolina Republicans are obviously not the only ones fighting to ban, limit or restrict the right to bodily autonomy, whether abortion or gender-affirming health care for transgender people. All across the country, Republicans have passed laws to do exactly that wherever they have the power to do so, regardless of public opinion in their states or anywhere else. The war on bodily autonomy is a critical project for nearly the entire G.O.P., pursued with dedication by Republicans from the lowliest state legislator to the party’s powerful functionaries on the Supreme Court.

[T]he actions of Republican-led states and legislatures provide the best guide to what the Republican Party wants to do and the best insight into the society it hopes to build.

I have already made note of the attack on bodily autonomy, part of a larger effort to restore traditional hierarchies of gender and sexuality. What else is on the Republican Party’s agenda, if we use those states as our guide to the party’s priorities?

There is the push to free business from the suffocating grasp of child labor laws. Republican lawmakers in Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio have advanced legislation to make it easier for children as young as 14 to work more hours, work without a permit and be subjected to more dangerous working conditions. The reason to loosen child labor laws — as a group of Wisconsin Republicans explained in a memo in support of a bill that would allow minors to serve alcohol at restaurants — is to deal with a shortage of low-wage workers in those states.

There are other ways to solve this problem — you could raise wages, for one — but in addition to making life easier for the midsize-capitalist class that is the material backbone of Republican politics, freeing businesses to hire underage workers for otherwise adult jobs would undermine organized labor and public education, two bĂȘtes noires of the conservative movement.

Elsewhere in the country, Republican-led legislatures are placing harsh limits on what teachers and other educators can say in the classroom about American history or the existence of L.G.B.T.Q. people.

Last but certainly not least is the Republican effort to make civil society a shooting gallery. Since 2003, Republicans in 25 states have introduced and passed so-called constitutional carry laws, which allow residents to have concealed weapons in public without a permit. In most of those states, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, it is also legal to openly carry a firearm in public without a permit.

Republicans have also moved aggressively to expand the scope of “stand your ground” laws, which erode the longstanding duty to retreat in favor of a right to use deadly force in the face of perceived danger.

In his 1941 State of the Union address, Franklin Roosevelt said there was “nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy” and that he, along with the nation, looked forward to “a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” Famously, those freedoms were the “freedom of speech and expression,” the “freedom of every person to worship God in his own way,” the “freedom from want” and the “freedom from fear. Those freedoms were the guiding lights of his New Deal, and they remained the guiding lights of his administration through the trials of World War II.

Roosevelt’s four freedoms were the building blocks of a humane society — a social democratic aspiration for egalitarians then and now. These Republican freedoms are also building blocks not of a humane society but of a rigid and hierarchical one, in which you can either dominate or be dominated.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, May 19, 2023

More Friday Male Beauty


The Durham Report: A Sinister Flop

According to Donald Trump and Republicans only too happy to give Trump and the MAGA base politico fellatio, the report of Special Counsel John Durham was supposed to reveal a "deep state" conspiracy against Donald Trump and absolve him of all wrongdoing.  Instead it produced a big fat nothing save for quibbling about FBI procedures.   Unlike the Mueller report that ultimately lead to numerous prosecutions and convictions with jail time, Durham's four year endeavor produced only one plea deal concerning one altered document.   Nothing Durham revealed undid the conclusions of Mueller and a Senate Intelligence Committee report that there had indeed be Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election nor did it provide any answers for why Trump remains deferential to Vladimir Putin no matter how many atrocities and war crimes Putin commits.  Sadly, that is not to say those on the political right and Trump's political whore aren't clinging to snippets from the report about FBI procedures to dissemble and lie about the real lack of findings in the Durham report.  In today's GOP, conspiracy theories and lies always override facts and objective reality.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the Durham report as a major flop.  Here are excerpts: 

Defending Donald Trump was always awkward.  So many incidents unfolded in a familiar pattern. Somebody would accuse the ex-president of something bad. The ex-president’s supporters would spring into action to deny the charge—only to be undercut when Trump pivoted, admitted everything, and even bragged about it.

Defending the indefensible wears people down. Even the most committed and tribal warrior of the right must have sometimes wished that Trump didn’t keep making the job so hard.

In 2019, Trump was scorched by two massive reports detailing the assistance provided to his 2016 presidential campaign by Russian intelligence agencies. The first, by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, also presented evidence of obstruction of justice. The Mueller document was supplemented by the even weightier report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, then chaired by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina.

The factual record presented by those two accounts was damning. Mueller’s investigation produced some three dozen indictments, seven guilty pleas, and one conviction at trial. Among those sent to prison was Trump’s own campaign chair, Paul Manafort. Mueller also documented the main elements of an obstruction of justice case against Trump—though Mueller heeded the internal Department of Justice rule against prosecuting a serving president.

The Trump White House and its supporters could not refute the material. They sought instead to distort its content and cushion its impact. Attorney General William Barr, for example, withheld the Mueller report for nearly a month to review and make redactions, even as Barr’s office hastened to publish an executive summary that represented the report as an exoneration of Trump personally. . . . Six Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee appended a statement acknowledging Russian interference in the 2016 election, while insisting that “then-Candidate Trump was not complicit.”

But distortion and cushioning are not very satisfactory responses. The facts are the facts; people can assess them for themselves and reach unwelcome conclusions, as five Democratic senators on the Intelligence Committee did in their reply to the six Republicans: “Russian intelligence services’ assault on the integrity of the 2016 U.S. electoral process and Trump and his associates’ participation in and enabling of this Russian activity, represents one of the single most grave counterintelligence threats to American national security in the modern era.”

For the political allies of a character like Trump, it’s dangerous to be cast on the defensive. He’s done so much bad stuff. A certain number of the tribalists may tolerate it all and find ways to equivocate, but the less committed may lose faith. The TV talking heads can repeat “no collusion” over and over, but Trump does keep saying all those complimentary things about Vladimir Putin, no matter what atrocities the Russian president commits.

Safer, then, to shift to counter-accusation. Which was the mission Barr assigned to his chosen special counsel, John Durham.

Almost from the start of the Trump-Russia investigation, Trump had insisted that he was the real victim. Trump-Russia was a conspiracy cooked up by President Barack Obama, candidate Hillary Clinton, the FBI, and the media to frame him, Trump.

The Department of Justice acknowledged in September 2017 that there was no basis for Trump’s outlandish claim. But the allegation of anti-Trump plotting reverberated through Trump world for the duration of the administration and beyond.

Fossilized versions of this defunct counter-allegation can be found strewn through the text of the Durham report. For example, on page 81:

The Office also considered as part of its investigation the government’s handling of certain intelligence that it received during the summer of 2016. That intelligence concerned the purported “approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016, of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.

Durham turns over this fossil a few more times before reluctantly relinquishing it. Durham is willing to disregard some, even many, inconvenient realities (including his own sparse prosecution record: one guilty plea from an FBI attorney for altering an email—a case based on investigative work already done by the DOJ’s own inspector general . . . .

Yet, unlike Trump himself and many in the Trump mediasphere, Durham would not jettison the structure of reality altogether. His report eventually reconciles itself to the delusionary nature of the so-called Clinton Plan. It grudgingly and glancingly accepts that there really was Russian interference in the election of 2016, that it cannot be dismissed as merely the mewling of a scheming Clinton campaign.

Rather than endorse the theory of a global anti-Trump conspiracy, Durham settles into a long bill of grievances against the FBI. The agency’s methods, he argues, were too aggressive; its agents were too ready to believe the worst about Trump.

This, in the end, is the gravamen of the Durham report: The FBI overreacted to the available information about Trump’s Russia contacts and should have moved more cautiously before advancing to the next phase of an investigation.

Specialists in the law and practice of counter-intelligence can argue whether Durham has correctly interpreted the appropriate modalities of FBI procedure. Very possibly, Durham is correct. Yet even if he is, isn’t this all kind of underwhelming? Durham’s sponsors hoped to reveal a globe-spanning conspiracy to vilify an innocent Donald Trump. What he delivered for them instead was a list of arguable procedural infractions by the FBI. . . . but such an infraction doesn’t necessarily make the perp innocent.

Post-Durham, we are exactly where we were pre-Durham.  U.S. government agencies have meticulously documented the help Russian espionage agencies provided to the Trump campaign in 2016. It is a matter of record that the Trump campaign wanted and sought even more help—specifically, that it tried to communicate with WikiLeaks about material from hacked Democratic Party communications.

People in the Trump orbit were caught lying and lying again about their Russian connections. As president, Trump took extraordinary pains to conceal his discussions with Putin, even from other members of his own administration.

That’s all beyond dispute. Durham’s efforts to reopen the disputes failed miserably.

But what the report does is offer an excuse and escape to Republicans and conservatives who want to protect Trump without outright defending him. Durham tells the story of Trump-Russia while deleting both Trump and Russia. A great many people are eager for that telling. It changes the subject to something much less uncomfortable than the evidence that the Trump presidency was compromised by a corrupt foreign dictatorship.

This revisionism also offers partisans an exciting future possibility: a justification for new rounds of post-Trump culture war. . . . But fantasies of cultural revenge are a powerful resource in Republican politics.

As a legal text, the Durham report is limp and meager. As a history of recent events, it is misleading. But don’t dismiss its significance because of its intellectual defects. The Durham report is already proving to be a huge success as a prop and support for the bitterest partisan rancor. And its fullest import may yet lie ahead: as a rationalization for abuses of power by Trump-legacy administrations of the future.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Friday Morning Male Beauty


More Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Parents Sue to Stop Florida Book Bans

The plethora of state laws passed by Republicans seeking to erase discussions of race and sexual orientation from schools, including book bans are justified as protecting "parents' rights" despite the fact that majorities of Americans oppose book bans and favor an honest discussion of race in America.  The reality is that these Republican politicians care about the rights of only evangelical/Christofascist and white supremacist parents and to hell with the rights of other parents.  Now, a group of parents who oppose book bans and censorship have filed a federal lawsuit in Florida against the Escambia County schools which have banned numerous books to mollify right wing extremist parents. If successful, the lawsuit could provide a vehicle for parents in other states to counter the efforts by right wing dark money funded  - and falsely named - groups like "Moms for Liberty" who want to take public education back to the social mores of the early 1950's and put gays and racial minorities "in their place."  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the lawsuit.  Here are excerpts: 

In one of the big political surprises of 2023, pockets of stiff resistance have sprung up to defend teachers, textbooks, novels and libraries against censorship efforts across the country. This liberal counter-mobilization is substantially less organized than the right’s culture-warring, but it has great untapped potential for Democrats.

These efforts just took an important turn, with a lawsuit filed by Florida parents in federal court Wednesday to try to stop book bans in school libraries in Escambia County, red-leaning terrain in the state’s panhandle. The suit could become a model to challenge bans across Florida and elsewhere.

What’s striking is that this lawsuit is being brought by mothers who want their kids exposed to ideas that the censors have decreed are unsuitable. The suit is spearheaded by PEN America and is joined by several writers whose books have been banned, along with Penguin Random House, which published them.

“It’s one thing for you to say, ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’” Lindsay Durtschi, a mom and plaintiff in the lawsuit, told me. “But if you take it from the library altogether, you’re also telling me that my child can’t read this.”

The lawsuit argues that a slew of book removals in the county violate the First Amendment by denying parents and students access to information for ideological purposes. Citing court precedent, the complaint argues that, while administrators do have some control over what appears in public school libraries, this doesn’t permit official suppression of disfavored ideas.

“This case is important,” Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute, told me. “It may place constitutional limits on the authority of school boards to remove books from school libraries.”

That could deal a blow to the book-banning mania that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has unleashed. Across the state, right-wing activists are citing various of his laws and directives as the basis for getting books removed from school libraries. More than 500 were targeted for removal in the 2021-2022 school year, according to an analysis by PEN America.

None of these books contained age-inappropriate sexual conduct, the lawsuit argues, noting that the removals were “ideological” responses to “contents and themes.” The suit cites many other examples of books targeted on ideological grounds, such as the promotion of a “woke agenda.”

In an important twist, the lawsuit doesn’t directly target DeSantis’s laws or directives. Instead, it argues that the removals themselves are unconstitutional. If the courts agree, this could create clearer prohibitions on school boards banning books for ideological reasons, regardless of what fig leaf rationale they cite.

By attacking ideologically driven bans themselves as unconstitutional, the lawsuit could create a weapon for parents to use against book removals throughout Florida and beyond. “We believe that a vindication of the rights of the plaintiffs would go a long way legally toward halting the momentum that such efforts presently have,” Paul Safier, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told me.

A victory in this lawsuit, Durtschi says, would make it clearer that the book-banners are really out to marginalize people and ideas. Parents need to take a stand now, lest the censors grow even more emboldened, she said.

The counter-mobilization against the right’s culture-war extremism has room to grow, giving Democrats an opening. In his reelection campaign video, President Biden attacked book bans, suggesting Democrats believe reactionary overreach motivates their base and alienates suburban swing voters.

But a deeper contest of values is at stake. As Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider argue in the New Republic, the Republicans censoring school discussion of sex, gender and race are trying to circumscribe the core role that public education plays in developing future citizens in a tolerant, multiracial liberal democracy.

More Thursday Male Beauty


DHS: Threats Against LGBT Individuals Are Intensifying

As Ron DeSantis and other Republicans have sought to endear themselves with Republican primary voters - typically the most extreme and unhinged elements of the Party base - through a new jihad against LGBT citizens, they have created an atmosphere where threats of violence against the LGBT community and its members are intensifying according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS").  Through "don't say gay" laws, efforts to demonize transgender individuals, and a manufactured hysteria over drag shows, the underlying message is that LGBT individuals are a threat to children and society.  In a nation drowning in guns, it is sadly probably a matter of time before another mass shooting and a gay club or pride event takes place.  Not that these Republicans care the slightest about the way they are literally endangering lives.  All that matters is thrilling the evangelicals and Christofascists by mainstreaming their hatred.  A piece at ABC News looks at the growing threat.  Here are excerpts:

Threats of violence against the LGBT community are on the rise and intensifying, according to a new briefing by the Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS document, distributed to government and law enforcement agencies on May 11, said that domestic violence extremists and people who commit hate crimes have increased threats of violence against the LGBT community within the last year.

“These issues include actions linked to drag-themed events, gender-affirming care, and LGBT curricula in schools," DHS said.

DHS said that the issues inspiring threats and calls of violence against the LGBT community could lead to a rise of potential attacks against larger targets, such as public spaces and healthcare sites that may be linked to the community.

In recent months, politicians in Tennessee, Florida and other Republican-run states have introduced legislation that critics say targets the LGBTQIA+ community.

In March 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by detractors.

The bill banned classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Last month, the Florida Board of Education expanded those restrictions to include all grades. In March, Tennessee became the first state to restrict public drag performances.

HB 9 and SB 3, signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, make "a person who engages in an adult cabaret performance on public property" -- or where it can be viewed by minors -- a criminal offense.

Last month, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law, saying it was vaguely written and overly broad, according to AP.

At least 14 states have passed laws or policies that restrict gender-affirming care for people under the age of legal majority, which is the threshold for legal adulthood.

According to DHS, about 20% of all hate crimes reported throughout the country in 2021 were motivated by bias linked to sexual orientation and gender, citing the FBI's hate crime statistics. 

 It is terrifying that increasingly LGBT individuals have to once again be afraid for their safety and consider avoiding states where Republicans are fanning the flames of anti-gay hatred.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

More Wednesday Male Beauty


The GOP's Austerity: Billions for Tax Cheats and Oil Companies

As a U.S.default on the nation's debts - that is debts already incurred in past spending - the potential economic fiasco for the average Americans and the world inches closer and closer.  The Republicans who are currently holding all of us hostage claim they want to reduce the defiit, yet many parts of the GOP passed bill in the House of Representatives are simply more pieces of the GOP's overarching reverse Robin Hood agenda of taking from the poor and middle class and giving to the wealthy and large corporations, especially oil companies which have been enjoying record profits.  Meanwhile, the GOP hostage taking has already run up more federal debt as the Treasury has had to manipulate payments and the strength of U.S. Treasury bills has weakened. To Kevin McCarthy and his band of extremists in the GOP caucus none of this matters so long as th ugliest elements of the GOP base remain thrilled - and too stupid to recognize that many in that same base will be severely harmed by both the GOP brinksmanship and many of the cuts McCarthy is demanding.  A piece in the New Republic looks at the reality of what the Congressional Republicansare doing to the country.  Here are highlights:

Congressional Republicans say they’re resisting an increase to the debt ceiling because government spending is out of control. “Before we borrow another dime,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said last month, “we owe it to our children to save money everywhere.” But McCarthy’s claim that all his party wants to do is bring down government spending isn’t entirely true.

Granted, it is true that the bill would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, reduce projected deficits by $4.8 trillion over 10 years. Doing that would necessitate, next year, a 27 percent cut in discretionary spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That’s assuming, as everyone does, that congressional Republicans will never apply these across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon. McCarthy blows a gasket every time President Joe Biden points out that his plan would require a severe reduction in veterans’ benefits. But as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, if McCarthy intends not to cut funding for the Veterans Administration, then discretionary spending on all other domestic programs next year will have to be cut not 27 percent but 33 percent.

It’s sheer fantasy to conceive that you can cut spending by anything close to this magnitude without doing severe damage to government functions and creating a public uproar. Even the tough-talking Freedom Caucus would never allow it to happen. McCarthy’s debt limit bill is a bluff that, as I’ve noted before, wouldn’t have won support from his own caucus without McCarthy’s assurance that the bill would never, ever become law.

[L]et’s review how the GOP’s negotiating stance on the debt ceiling increases rather than decreases government spending.

Start with the debt limit bill itself. Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island tweeted last week that 275 of the 317 pages of McCarthy’s debt limit bill are “devoted to giveaways to the fossil fuel industry.” For example, the bill would reduce royalty rates for drilling on federal land. The combined cost of these giveaways, according to the CBO, is $430 million.

The debt limit bill would also claw back $71 billion of the $80 billion Congress included in last year’s climate bill to boost funding for the IRS. That sounds like a spending cut, but rescinding that increase would cost the federal government $186 billion in lost tax revenue over the next decade, according to CBO, netting out to a cost of $115 billion.

[C]ongressional Republicans say they’re fighting Biden on the debt ceiling (“We owe it to our children”) because they want to halt runaway spending. That renders glaringly hypocritical individual examples where they propose spending increases. We do not “owe it to our children” to charge oil companies less for leases on federal land or to enable tax cheating by the rich.

Even setting aside McCarthy’s debt ceiling bill, don’t kid yourself that Republican intransigence on the debt ceiling is cost-free. The statutory debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion was actually reached way back on January 19. The only reason the United States didn’t go into default then was that the Treasury used the same “extraordinary measures” (i.e., accounting gimmicks) that it deployed during similarly dangerous debt limit games of chicken that congressional Republicans chose to play in 2011 and 2013. . . . . In 2011, when the GOP played a similar game, it managed to lower Standard & Poor’s credit rating for U.S. Treasury bills.

To employ these tricks is economically unwise because you end up spending more money. But your cash flow leaves you no alternative.

The federal budget operates on the same principle. When money is suddenly tight, either because of a government shutdown or because of a debt limit standoff, Uncle Sam does what you do: He calculates which bills to pay now and which bills to pay later. Only instead of shorting the gas bill or the electric bill or the Visa bill, he skips contributions to retirement funds for civil servants and postal workers and he suspends the issuing of certain securities.

The federal government’s extraordinary measures will soon be all used up, possibly as early as June 1. At that point, the cost of Republican intransigence will be an economic recession, and that’s if we’re lucky. A protracted default would, according to the White House, push unemployment near or beyond 10 percent in the next quarter and cause a drop in gross domestic product of more than 6 percent. Even a brief default could lower the yield on Treasury bills by $750 billion over the next decade, according to economists Wendy Edelberg and Louise Sheiner, writing for the Brookings Institution.

GOP giveaways in the debt limit bill total $115.4 billion. Add in the $328 million we’re spending on extraordinary measures, and congressional Republicans’ holy war on government spending increases the federal deficit by nearly $116 billion. That means McCarthy will have to commit Biden to about $116 billion in budget cuts just to break even on what his bill proposes to spend plus what his theatrics have already cost the U.S. taxpayer.

If you prefer to calculate, more conservatively, based on the tab McCarthy has run up already, then that tab is $328 million. That may not sound like much in a federal budget that exceeds $6 trillion. But it ain’t nothing.

If a Republican member of Congress figured out how to cut $328 million from the federal budget, he’d send out a press release, right? But no Republican is going to send out a press release saying we could have saved $328 million had McCarthy not pissed it away refusing to let Congress pay its bills.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Republican Party's Embrace of Christian Nationalism

If one believes in freedom of religion for all, the Republican Party's full on embrace of white Christian nationalism should be very disturbimg.  Increasingly, the Republican candidates repeat a mantra of not "one nation under God" but "one religion under god", and that religion is a virulent form of right wing Christianity tht demands that its dogma be inflicted on all.  Look not onlt at Trump's and DeSantis' pandering to evangelicals and Christofascist but also at GOP controlled state legislatures in states like Texas and Florida where there is an all out war against religious diversity and ongoing efforts to enshire an ugly version of "christian" religion on all.  Should the Republicans take control of the Virginia General Assembly in November, Glenn Youngkin would be only too happy to visit the same extremism on Virginia as he followed the bidding of the hate merchants at The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group.  If separation of church and state is to survive, Republicans at all levels must be defeated in both 2023 and 2024.  A column in the New York Times looks at the GOP's embrace of white Christian nationalism.  Here are highlights:

Last week the ReAwaken America Tour, a Christian nationalist roadshow co-founded by the former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, rolled up to the Trump National Doral Miami resort. Two speakers who’d appeared at other stops on the tour, the online streamers Scott McKay and Charlie Ward, were jettisoned at the last moment because of bad publicity over their praise of Hitler. . . . . But as of this writing, the tour’s website still includes McKay and Ward, along with Eric Trump, as featured speakers at an upcoming extravaganza in Las Vegas.

ReAwaken America’s association with anti-Semites did not stop Donald Trump from calling into the rally to offer his support. “It’s a wonderful hotel, but you’re there for an even more important purpose,” he told a shrieking crowd, before promising to bring Flynn back in for a second Trump term.

Flynn has long been a paranoid Islamophobe, and toward the end of Trump’s presidency, he emerged as a full-fledged authoritarian, calling on Trump to invoke martial law after the 2020 election. Now he’s become, in addition to an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist and QAnon adherent, one of the country’s most prominent Christian nationalists. “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion,” he said at a 2021 ReAwaken America event. “One nation under God and one religion under God, right?”

A major question for Republicans in 2024 is whether this militant version of Christian nationalism — one often rooted in Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on prophecy and revelation — can overcome the qualms of more mainstream evangelicals. The issue isn’t whether the next Republican presidential candidate is going to be a Christian nationalist, meaning someone who rejects the separation of church and state and treats Christianity as the foundation of American identity and law. That’s a foregone conclusion in a party whose state lawmakers are falling over themselves to pass book bans, abortion prohibitions, anti-trans laws, and, in Texas, bills authorizing school prayer and the posting of the Ten Commandments in classrooms.

What’s not yet clear, though, is what sort of Christian nationalism will prevail: the elite, doctrinaire variety of candidates like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, or the violently messianic version embodied by Flynn and Trump.

ReAwaken America’s Miami stop had just concluded when Trump ran afoul of some more traditional evangelical leaders in his effort to set himself apart from DeSantis. In a Monday interview with The Messenger, he criticized the six-week abortion ban DeSantis signed in Florida . . . . Of course, lots of people believe that the Florida law is too harsh, but they’re not generally members of the anti-abortion movement, where Trump’s statement was poorly received.

There is an obvious opening for DeSantis here. He is fluent in the language of the religious right, and strives to check all its policy boxes. “Put on the full armor of God. Stand firm against the left’s schemes,” he said at the Christian Hillsdale College last year, substituting the “left’s schemes” for the “devil’s schemes” of Ephesians 6:11. In addition to the abortion ban and his war on “woke” education, he will almost certainly sign a recently passed bill intended to keep trans people from using their preferred bathrooms in government buildings, including schools.

But it remains to be seen whether rank-and-file religious conservatives care more about consistency or charisma. For the religious following that Trump has nurtured, he’s less a person who will put in place a specific Christian nationalist agenda than he is the incarnation of that agenda.

Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the organizer of Christians against Christian Nationalism, attended the ReAwaken America event at Trump Doral. She described a type of Christian nationalist fervor that was “very much tied to the political future of Donald Trump and nothing else.”

Tyler didn’t hear any of the ReAwaken speakers talk about abortion. Instead, she said, they spoke about “spiritual warfare.” There was also “a lot of talking about guns, about this sense that you’re put here for this time and this place.”

If DeSantis treats Christianity as a moral code he’d like to impose on the rest of us, Trump treats it as an elevated status that should come with special perks. That’s how he can slam DeSantis for being “sanctimonious” even as he wraps his own campaign in biblical raiment. If a Republican wins in 2024, the victor will preside over a Christian nationalist administration. The question is whether that person will champion an orthodoxy or a cult.

Everyone who believes in religious freedom and abhors white supremacy needs to oppose Republican candidates at every level in every election cycle.   

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, May 15, 2023

More Monday Male Beauty


Trump's Dogwhistle to the "Christian Right"

At times it is difficult to determine who is more morally bankrupt:  Donald Trump or the evangelicals and Christofascists who comprise a core element of the MAGA base.  This is especially true when it comes to the miscogyny Trup directs toward women who far too many eveangelicals view as needing to be subservient to their husbands and men in general.  Women are viewed as chattel property and nothing frightens evangelical males more than smart, independent womenn, many of whom are far more capable than their loser husbands or boyfriends.  At the disastrous CNN "townhall" last week, Trump messaged to these individuals that rape is completely acceptable if one is a "star" - and by extension any male.  All of this dovetails with the "Christian Right" effort to ban abortion, restrict contraception and subject womem to the control of males.  Trump's message  to his audience and his hideous base was that anti-woman miscogyny is fine and the crowds' reation underscored that the right's pretense of respecting women is a lie and a farce.  A piece at Salon looks at bot the "townhall" and far right "Christians" abusive agenda.  Here are highlights:

During his CNN "town hall" last week, Donald Trump offered a lip service denial that he had sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll in the 90s when asked about the recent court verdict affirming he did it. He soon shifted, however, to the message he really wanted to send: A winking admission that he did it.

"What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you're playing hanky panky in a dressing room?" he said, blaming Carroll for the assault as the audience laughed approvingly. He ranted about how she has a cat named "Vagina," implying that she's a slut who deserved to be raped. 

When host Kaitlin Collins asked if it is good or bad if powerful men can sexually assault without consequence, Trump replied, "Fortunately," adding cheekily, "Or unfortunately for her."

The MAGA audience ate it up, making it clear that they agree with Trump that rape is a hilarious punishment to inflict on women for "crimes" like being independent or sexual.

Sadly, however, this reaction will likely not make a dent in the Beltway wisdom that Christian conservatives dislike Trump's violent misogyny, and are merely overlooking it out of political expedience. Most of the people squealing in laughter at Trump's victim-blaming likely consider themselves "Christians." Sounds an awful lot like those "Christians" are just fine with sexual violence. Trump declared that Carroll deserved to be raped and bragged that he was entitled to do it. And they clapped.

No doubt, Christian conservatives have long claimed they are motivated not by misogyny, but by other, more noble concerns. They claim to oppose abortion rights because of "life" or, in more recent years, they have feigned interest in "protecting" women from the supposed "abortion industry." Similar efforts to stigmatize premarital sex or restrict access to contraception were marketed as "pro-woman," on the assumption that women are asexual creatures who must be shielded from the perverted ways of men. Feminists have long argued these religious right claims are lies, mere pretexts propped up to conceal the right's true interest, which is in preserving male dominance over women.

Recently, the Christian right has been letting the "pro-woman" mask slip, sometimes all the way off, revealing the truth too many in the mainstream press would rather ignore: The Christian right is about misogyny. It was always about misogyny. 

Last week, Democrats in Louisiana introduced a bill to add rape and incest exceptions to the state's abortion ban. Republicans didn't just kill the bill, they went out of their way to broadcast their contempt for the rape survivors who showed up to testify in favor of it.

In Texas, the lawyer who wrote the state's "bounty hunter" abortion ban, Republican activist and former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell, has rolled out the first major test case of the law. What is remarkable is that the plaintiff is such a mustache-twirling villain, that you would almost think he was a fictional character. Marcus Silva is clearly angry that his ex-wife thought she had a right to leave him. To get his revenge, he is suing her two good friends because they helped her abort a pregnancy. Silva claims to believe he "lost" a child, but the countersuit filed by her friends tells a different story.

They allege that he told her that if she didn't submit in "mind, body, and soul" to him, he would turn her over to the police. This fits a larger reported pattern, according to Moira Donegan and Mark Joseph Stern of SlateAccording to people who knew the couple, Brittni's husband, Marcus Silva, was mean and manipulative: When Brittni was at work (Silva was unemployed), he would accuse her of staying out for too long, of having an affair. When she was home, he would berate her . . . .

By taking up this suit, Mitchell is revealing the real purpose of the Texas abortion ban. It's not about "life" or "protecting women." It's about cementing male control over women, even when such men are horrible and abusive. 

Silva sounds a lot like the right-wing pundit Steven Crowder, who recorded a show lamenting the existence of no-fault divorce laws after a video of him emotionally abusing his ex-wife was leaked to the press. . . . . Crowder is just part of a larger Trump-era shift, where the distinctions between the Christian right and the more overtly caveman-style of sexism have collapsed completely. The whole tapdance about chivalry and "respect" for women has given way to the Trumpian style — but with a couple of Bible verses attached. 

"Whatever" has its DNA in the so-called "men's rights" movement, which used to be a secular anti-feminist movement that focused on male outrage over rape laws, women's right to divorce, and other social changes that make it much harder to abuse women and get away with it. Notably, "men's rights" activists mostly ignored abortion, outside of complaining that they didn't have a right to "paper abortions," their term for cutting off child support to punish a woman for leaving them. But, as these examples show, the distinction between "men's rights" and the Christian right's anti-abortion movement is collapsing

For example, a recent article at Fox News is titled "'Disenfranchised grief': The quiet pain of men who experience abortion." Which, as one can guess, is mostly about putting a sympathetic gloss on a deeply ugly desire of men to claim women's bodies as property.  . . . . Clearly, the authors feel the man who impregnated her should have the final word over her body. 

This is, of course, what has always been at the heart of the anti-abortion movement: A belief that women are men's property. But that is widely viewed as a deplorable opinion. For one thing, if you believe men are entitled to force childbirth on women, then it's not much of a leap to argue that they also have a right to lock women up in the house, block them from having jobs, hit them, or rape them. So the anti-choice movement has played games for decades, pretending their motive is anything but the misogyny it is. But when the leader of the GOP uses the word "fortunately" to describe a man's privilege to rape, that sends a signal to his followers. The Christian right base is listening and is done pretending they don't also hate women.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Sunday, May 14, 2023

More Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Republicans Are Pushing White Christian Nationalism

If one wants to see what would happen to Virginia if Republicans were to take control of the Virginia General Assembly, look no farther than Texas and Florida. Glenn Youngkin wants to be a Ron DeSantis/Greg Abbott mini-me.  Both of those states have declared war on religious pluralism and LGBT citizens and are making it very clear that the darlings of their anti-free speech, anti-non-white agenda are Christian nationalists who are anything but truly Christian.  Both states are also making it very clear that their Republican governors and GOP controled legislatures view religious freedom as reserved only for white far right Christians.  How else to explain Texas' effort to impose a new diktat that the Ten Commandments be posted in every public school classroom across the state.  Be assured that Youngkin's puppet masters at The Family Foundation - Virginia's most powerful hate group - would love to inflict similar religious extremism and special rights for far right "Christians" on all Virginians.  Why the desperate push by Republicans?  Their evangelical/Christofascist base is shrinking - within a few decades "Christians" will likely be in the minority in America - and they are demanding that their special privileges be put into law.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this growing GOP extremism.  Here are highlights: 

As everyone knows, there is no more effective way to shape the behavior of young people than through state-mandated posters on their classroom walls. At least that’s what Republicans in the Texas legislature seem to believe, which is why they’re advancing a bill requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom in the state.

Texas is growing more purple with each passing year, which is exactly why the Republican-dominated legislature is reasserting the right’s political and cultural power with ever more radically conservative laws. Part of that effort is a series of bills meant to impose not just religion but Christianity into public schools.

One bill would allow schools to mandate “a period of prayer and Bible reading on each school day.” Another says school personnel must be allowed to “engage in religious speech or prayer while on duty.” Yet another would allow schools to replace school counselors with “chaplains” — no training or certification required. The centerpiece is the bill requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments, which has already passed the state Senate.

That bill, Democratic state Rep. James Talarico told me, “not only violates our American values, but I think it violates my Christian values.”

Talarico recently went viral for a series of clips in which he questioned Rep. Candy Noble, the bill’s Republican sponsor in the House. The exchange highlighted how when challenged, conservatives often retreat to preposterous arguments claiming that they have no religious motives when they push Christianity into the classroom.

When Talarico asked Noble how a Hindu or atheist student would feel when seeing “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” on their classroom wall, she said, “I am hoping that when they see that, they will look at it and wonder about our Founding Fathers.”

That might make one wonder whether Noble is familiar with the Ten Commandments herself. The first four are about devotion to the god of the Old Testament, instructing readers to reject all other gods, to make no graven images, not to take this god’s name in vain, and to keep the sabbath.

Christian nationalism rejects our legal and cultural tradition of religious pluralism. It holds that the United States was a Christian nation from its founding and that Christianity should be the basis of public policy and political power.

Prominent national Republicans are increasingly emphasizing Christian-nationalist themes. Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) declared in a speech last year that “without the Bible, there is no America.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis released an ad claiming that he was literally created by the almighty to do His work in politics.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last year, “We were a nation founded upon not the words of our founders but the words of God because He wrote the Constitution.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) calls herself a “proud Christian nationalist.”

The right is surely growing more focused on creating a kind of Christian cultural hegemony in public institutions in part because Christianity is in a steep decline. Three decades ago, about 90 percent of Americans identified as Christian. Today, the number has fallen to the low 60s and the decline is likely to continue.

Something similar is happening politically in Texas. Republicans have a lock on power, yet the state continues inexorably moving away from them, culturally and demographically.

“I think this is the death rattle of a dying worldview,” Talarico told me. “In some ways, the far right is like a wounded animal here in Texas. They know that Texas is becoming increasingly diverse, Texas is becoming younger, and that new Texas is not going to stand for these extreme policies.”

Posting the Ten Commandments in schools is an obvious violation of Supreme Court precedent. But a series of recent decisions . . . . has convinced the right that the court will greenlight almost any injection of Christianity into public institutions.

A legal challenge to these Texas measures could become the vehicle for the Supreme Court to once and for all banish the establishment clause to a constitutional netherworld, where the court essentially decrees that it has no force. It’s the same place the court deposited the “well-regulated militia” clause of the Second Amendment.

But Talarico insists that people like him can change minds and fight back. “Christians like me have a moral obligation to speak out,” he told me. Nothing less than the possible repeal of the idea that America is a religiously pluralistic nation is at stake.

Talarico is right - moral Christians who believe in democracy and freedom of religion for all need to speak out.  Sadly, most sit on their hands and do nothing and by default allow Christofascists to further destroy the Christian brand, particlularly among the younger generations.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty